Telecoms company Eircom has reported a 3% rise in third quarter core earnings and said it now has 117,000 broadband customers. The company has set a target of 500,000 broadband customers by the end of 2007.

Eircom said its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation - and before restructuring programme costs - for the three months to December 31 amounted to €155m. This compares to €150m the same time the previous year.

Turnover for the three month period was flat at €401m. The company reported an operating profit on ordinary activies, before tax, of €31m. This compares to a loss of €62m the same time in 2003.

Eircom said its headcount was reduced by 499 since March 2004 - resulting in an exceptional charge of €57m.

Today's figures show that basic voice traffic turnover fell by 9% in the three month period. The company said this is mainly due to loss of market share and weakness in the traditional voice market - due to mobile substitution.

'These results demonstrate solid progress towards our three strategic goals for the company - to defend the core business, grow broadband, and re-enter mobile,' commented Eircom's Chief Executive Philip Nolan.

He said the company had met its targets in its core business 'in a tough operating environment'. 'Revenue has been held flat, and profitability is ahead at EBITDA and operating levels. Capital spending is on target, and cash generation is strong,' he said.

Eircom said it had 114,000 broadband customers by the end of December 2004, that number has grown to 117,000 today. The company said it is now focused on a new target of 500,000 broadband customers by December 2007.

On re-entering the mobile phone market, Eircom said it may take some time for the impact of the ComReg decision on Vodafone's and O2's dominance in the mobile market here, to become clear.

Eircom's share price closed three cent lower at €1.96 in Dublin.